The Devil Wears Prada (PG)

ANDREW CLARKE The trailers and advertising for The Devil Wears Prada makes this fast-paced, sharply focused satire on society and the fashion industry seem like just another chick flick.

ANDREW CLARKE

The trailers and advertising for The Devil Wears Prada makes this fast-paced, sharply focused satire on society and the fashion industry seem like just another chick flick. It isn't.

This film will undoubtedly earn Streep her 14th Oscar nomination and finally wrench Hathaway away from The Princess Diaries and into a new and more rewarding career making movies for grown-ups.

It's a film packed solid with killer lines, bravura performances and a feeling you are watching a top-of-the food-chain predator keeping herself in shape by sharpening her claws. Surprisingly, for a film about the fashion industry, there aren't a lot of histrionics on show. The drama comes from the fact that there is always an undeniable tension bubbling just under the surface.


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Everyone is always on edge, everyone is always worrying about things that haven't gone wrong but could go wrong, everyone is worried about upsetting Miranda Priestly - long-serving editor of Runway magazine, America's best-selling aspirational fashion mag.

Meryl Streep plays Priestly as the worst boss you could possibly imagine. She doesn't scream, she doesn't shout, but she makes everyone around them feel as if they are completely worthless.

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If you are her assistant, as Anne Hathaway's Andy Sachs finds out, you are on call 24 hours a day and if you can't get her what she wants when she wants it then there is no point in returning to work the following day.

For example, when she is on a trip to Florida a hurricane closes down all the airports which forces her to stay over night and miss her daughters' school concert. Andy's inability to find a private jet that would fly in those weather conditions earns her a stinging rebuke - delivered in measured ice-cold tones.

Other tests include her tracking down the manuscript of the latest Harry Potter novel before publication and ordering a steak that will take 30 minutes to prepare and having it on her desk in 15.

Ultimately it's a movie about making moral decisions - the right decisions and this is what makes The Devil Wears Prada an interesting movie. In the beginning Andy Sachs isn't really interested in being Miranda Priestly's assistant. She isn't particularly interested in fashion and has never read the magazine, but she lands the job when as Priestly herself says: "Take a chance on the brainy girl, take a chance on the fat girl." It turns out that in Priestly's book size six is fat.

But after being taken under the wing of Stanley Tucci's gloriously camp art director Nigel, she slowly starts to reinvent herself and gradually, almost imperceptibly, becomes a clone of the other ambitious youngsters working for Miranda. Meanwhile she is fast losing her own social life. A trip to dinner and the theatre with her father is hijacked by Miranda; she sees less of her friends and she is forced to miss her boyfriend's birthday party all together.

Shamefaced she creeps home, decked out in all the latest fashion gear. "I'm sorry, I had no choice," she apologises sheepishly. On the face of it, she did have no choice, not if she wanted to keep her job, but as her boyfriend knows she did have a choice -her job is not the be-all and end-all - not if she is serious in her desire to become a writer rather than a fashion assistant.

The script may be sharp, but it is the integrity of the performances which lend the film a lot of its weight. Streep is superb as Priestly and pitches her performance exactly right. Yes, she is a monster but she is a recognisable one, she is a human being not some bizarre alien. She is a person who is completely consumed by her job, who is driven by her job and without the title of editor would cease to exist. Her job defines who she is.

But, underneath that steely exterior lies a vulnerable person - who starts to show her real self when her second husband sets divorce proceedings in motion. It's a revelation that lasts for only two minutes but Streep invests so much in that small sequence that it changes the way you view her from then on.

Hathaway makes for a suitably naive graduate PA while Britain's Emily Blunt relishes her role as the bitchy English first assistant.

But the person who makes the biggest impression, after Streep herself, is Stanley Tucci's kindly but camp art director. He is the one person who offers Andy some kindly advice but also forces her to face facts.

The Devil Wears Prada is not only a highly entertaining, razor-sharp look at the world of fashion, but also a well-timed look at what people are required to do these days to get ahead in the highly competitive world of work.

Excellent.

 

 

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